Extension is sought for English-language budget plan
Arizona Republic
Feb. 29, 2008


Lawmakers will be unable to meet March 4 deadline

Mary Jo Pitzl



Legislative leaders say they can't meet a March 4 court deadline to submit a funding plan for English-language programs and asked a court Thursday for an extension until April 18.

That's laughably late, replied the attorney representing school districts in the case of Flores vs. Arizona.

"They've had lots of time to do this," said attorney Tim Hogan of the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest A federal judge set the March 4 deadline in October.

But Republican legislative leaders, who have intervened in the long-running lawsuit, say they can't put together a funding plan because they're still processing budget requests from Arizona's 247 school districts.

"Of those, nearly half were submitted on the last possible day, creating a significant backlog of work for the department," attorney Paul R. Neil wrote on behalf of Senate President Tim Bee and House Speaker Jim Weiers.

Their request was made to U.S. District Court Judge Raner Collins, who has presided over the Flores case for several years. The legislators' attorney asked Collins for a speedy hearing on their request.

Hogan said an extra two weeks is the most he could agree to.

He noted that state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne has publicly estimated the cost of the program at $30 million to $50 million. Lawmakers could appropriate money in that range, he said. If it's too much, or too little, lawmakers can always adjust their appropriation.

In their motion to the court, the lawmakers said school districts have slowed down the process by adding items to their English-language instruction requests that are outside the limits of Arizona's law.